LG offers the NetCast Entertainment Access technology (launched a year ago), basically an on-screen menu (controled via remote control). Panasonic has Viera Cast technology (launched two years ago), offering the same functionality. Viera Cast appears to be a widget channel of sorts, already providing access to Amazon VOD, YouTube, Picasa and Bloomberg News.
The big question now is: who will be a winner in this arms race to get the TV connected? Here are the categories competing:
- Independent box manufacturers (Boxee, Roku, Sezmi, Syabas, etc.)
- Established STB makers (Humax, )
- TV manufacturers (LG, Panasonic, Samsung)
- Software makers (ANT, ActiveVideo, Oregan Networks, Metrological Media Innovations)
- Content aggregators (ZapMyTV)
On the side, to include a few other initiatives, there are similar movements going on at the same time:
- Connected TV, or HbbTV (hybrid broadband broadcast TV): bring web-based content (including catch-up TV and VOD) to the TV through a broadband connection.
- Catch-up TV: bring TV-based content to the web (and back to the TV again through a Connected TV platform).
- TV Everywhere, DECE, KeyChest: put video/TV-based content in the cloud for consumption on any device via a broadband connection.
- Place-shifting: distribute home content (including live TV) over any broadband connection (Sling).
And which could be the ingredients to success?
- Good functionality: this requires a solid processor.
- Ease of use: the answer to this is simple: widgets (or whatever people call them, e.g. Popapps) and/or the remote control (which could morph into a keyboard of sorts, such as the new Boxee/D-Link product).
- True HbbTV, i.e. true integration of broadband and broadcast content. Here lies the key: this is what Connected TV sets apart form media players, i.e. better services and an opportunity for the entire value chain (including broadcasters, hardware/software makers, advertisers, content producers).
- Relationships with established players in the TV ecosystem: partnering with cable companies, STB and TV manufacturers will give distribution a boost.
- Content: a full widget gallery.
- Low pricing: this speaks against boxes, because the silicon may as well be built into TV sets directly.